Prairie du Chien, WI – The state of State of Wisconsin does not recognize the spouse, children, or other relatives as automatic decision-makers when an individual is incapacitated. For Wisconsin residents, this makes it critical to have completed advanced directives at any age. Even though physicians and other health care providers may discuss treatment with relatives, and often take their decisions as consent, this is not explicitly protected by Wisconsin law. If the physician or hospital is unsure about a decision, or if family disagrees about a decision, and these concerns cannot be resolved, they may have to turn to the courts for guidance.
At any age, a person can become incapacitated by an unexpected serious accident or illness which causes him or her to be unable to make decisions about health care. This is why it is recommended that anyone over the age of 18 complete an advanced directive.
Advanced directives are legal documents that are completed by adults in advance of an illness or accident that would leave an individual unable to express your wishes. Advanced directives contain several different documents, including: Power of Attorney for Health Care; Declaration to Physicians - Living Will; Power of Attorney for Finance; Do Not Resuscitate (DNR order); and Authorization for Final Disposition. The Patient Family Services team at Crossing Rivers Health can help with four of these five forms – all of them except Power of Attorney for Finance.
In Wisconsin, two very important advanced medical directives are the Power of Attorney for Health Care and the Declaration to Physicians (commonly referred to as a Living Will).
A Power of Attorney for Health Care is a document in which an individual can appoint a family member or friend (who is 18 years or older) he or she trusts to make health care decisions for them if their doctors determine he or she can no longer make their own medical decisions. An alternate decision maker may also be named if the first decision maker is unwilling or unable to make decisions when needed.
A Declaration to Physicians – Living Will is a document in which an individual can state his or her care wishes about life-support machines or feeding tubes if they become terminally ill or lapse into a persistent vegetative state (permanent coma). A Living Will does not allow an individual to name someone to make decisions for on their behalf.
The Patient Family Services team at Crossing Rivers Health provides assistance completing advanced directives free of charge. Learn more about advanced directives at crossingrivers.org/wellnessminute-advanceddirectives or plan to attend an end of life planning seminar on May 14 from 5:30 – 7:00 pm at Crossing Rivers Health, 37868 US Hwy 18, Prairie du Chien, WI. During this free community program, experts will share information about the role and value of advance care planning. Topics will include Power of Attorney for Health Care, Financial Power of Attorney, wills, organ and tissue donation, funeral planning, and end-of-life discussions. To learn more about this event, visit crossingrivers.org/planning.